Female vs. Male Oriole: How To Identify the Sex of 9 Orioles

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If you have orioles in your garden, you may be fascinated to see these birds and especially enjoy observing the birds’ behavior during the breeding and nesting season. You may also enjoy watching them eating in your garden and perhaps visiting feeders you have left out.

But one thing you might be wondering is how to tell the males and females apart.

Do Male and Female Orioles look the same?

Female and male orioles are often strongly sexually dimorphic. In other words, the males and females have strongly divergent characteristics regarding the color and patination of their plumage.

However, while the sexes of the most commonly seen oriole species in the US are very easily identified, the males and females of some oriole species look much more similar, and it can be much more challenging to tell them apart.

female oriole

So let’s explore the differences between the sexes of different oriole species you might encounter, so you should find it easier to tell whether you are looking at a male or female of the species.

Baltimore Orioles – Telling Males and Females Apart

Baltimore orioles are a migratory species in the east of North America whose arrival heralds the spring. The timing of their arrival and departure depends on their gender, as well as other factors.

male oriole

The males are typically the first to arrive and leave – appearing in April and leaving again from as early as July.

The males and females of this species look very different from one another. The males are bright orange and black, with black wings with white wing bars. The females have yellow undersides and heads, brownish yellow backs, and gray-brown wings.

Bullock’s Orioles – Telling Males and Females Apart

Bullock’s orioles breed throughout the western half of the United States and spend the winter in Mexico. With this migratory species, you can expect the males to arrive a little ahead of the females to establish their territory before the breeding season begins.

Males and female Bullock’s orioles differ markedly in the color of their plumage. The males are rather gaudy compared to their female counterparts, with bright orange bodies, black and white wings, and black markings on their heads. The females have gray backs and yellowish heads, tails, and chests.

Orchard Oriole – Telling Males and Females Apart

Orchard orioles breed in the central and eastern states over the summer months, spending the cooler months in Mexico and Central America. Again, the first arrivals in spring will typically be the males, followed shortly after by the females, and the males are likely to be the first to migrate back south.

This is perhaps the oriole species with the most marked differences between males and females. The males are reddish underneath, with black heads and backs. The females are a greenish yellow all over, darker on the back and paler underneath, with darker wings and white wing bars.

Streak-backed Oriole – Telling Males and Females Apart

Though these orioles are rare in the US, they can be seen as occasional visitors in the southwest, moving north from Mexico and Central America, where they are primarily found. Their natural habitat is woodland, savannah, grassland, and shrubland, and they love an open, arid woodland where mimosa is present.

The adult male of this species is bright orange, with black-streaked wings, black tails, and black around the eyes and chin. The females and juveniles are less distinguished from the males than in some other species of oriole but have a slightly lighter yellow hue than orange.

Spot-breasted Oriole – Telling Males and Females Apart

Spot-breasted orioles are another uncommon sight in the US, primarily residing in Mexico and Central America. But they are found in Florida and along the Gulf Coast. They live in open woodlands and are known to visit backyards in these areas for fruit and nectar.

Spot-breasted oriole males are black and orange, with distinctive black spotting on their breasts and white on wing edges. They have black around the face and chest and are black on their backs, wings, and tails. Females and juveniles look similar but are, again, more yellow than orange in color.

Scott’s Oriole – Telling Males and Females Apart

These orioles breed in the southwestern United States and Mexico and are a non-migrating species in Mexico and Baja California. They nest in arid areas, in low-down baskets of cactus fibers, grasses, and yucca leaves, and may have two or three broods in a year.

A large, distinctive oriole, the males have black heads and backs and bright yellow undersides. The females have olive-brown backs and paler yellow bellies.

Hooded Oriole – Telling Males and Females Apart

Hooded orioles sometimes breed in the southern United States and typically winter in Mexico, though some remain year-round on the Gulf Coast of Mexico and Central America. Some reside year-round in the southern United States, at least in part, due to the availability of food from nectar feeders in gardens.

Interestingly, the males’ color varies somewhat depending on the location. Males in Texas are more orange, while those further west have a yellower hue. The males all have black throats, backs, and face markings. Females and juveniles do not have the black face markings and are a paler yellow, with grayish wings.

Altamira Oriole – Telling Males and Females Apart

This oriole is rare in the US, except in the Rio Grande Valley in Texas, where they remain year-round. They are primarily seen in wildlife refuges in southeastern Texas but are sometimes seen at local garden feeders.

Most orioles pair up only for the breeding season, but these orioles are monogamous. Their amazing hanging nests can be two feet long. The males have black backs, wings and tails, and bright yellowish-orange fronts. Black also surrounds their eyes and spreads down their throats. The females and juveniles are more yellow and have olive rather than black backs.

Audubon’s Oriole – Telling Males and Females Apart

Audubon’s orioles have a small range in southeastern Texas and Mexico and do not migrate. They can be hard to spot as they are shy and forage for insects and fruit in thick vegetation.

If you spot one of these orioles, however, it can be much harder to tell whether you are looking at a male or a female since there is much less gender difference between these orioles than other orioles you are more likely to see in the US.

The males and females of the Audubon’s oriole are similar – both genders having bright yellow coloration, with black wings, tails, heads, and throats. Females of this species have a slightly more olive nape and back than the males, but this is often hard to distinguish.

So, as you can see, in most cases, it is relatively easy to tell whether you are looking at a male or female oriole. But in certain cases, it is more challenging to tell the two apart, and the sexual dimorphism with certain species is not so pronounced.

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Elizabeth Waddington

Elizabeth Waddington is a conservation, rewilding, organic gardening and sustainability specialist who loves everything nature-related. She loves helping others around the world connect with the wildlife and wonders around them. When not creating wildlife-wise, eco-friendly designs, or writing about the topics that inspire her, she loves spending time watching the birds on and around her own rural property, or heading out on camping or hiking adventures to spot birds and other wildlife in a range of habitats.